It's been a rude awakening to the year. Patsy and I have been putting together some rough proposals for a funding grant to try and secure the next three years of project work between St Mary's and the National Trust. We thought the deadline was March 1st and that with purposeful endeavour we might be able to put a competitive submission to the Arts and Humanities Funding Council together. Unfortunately the deadline has been shifted to January 28th which seems a daunting prospect in terms of collating the information needed, but with the Principal keen for us to push ahead there seems nothing for it other than to get our heads down and plough forward.
We're working with Natalie, a frighteningly smart intern just up from Oxford, who's more or less been put in charge of making sure we stick to the many mini deadlines over the next three weeks. We have a 9am briefing with her every morning to keep everything on track.
In some ways there's a sense of exhilaration about this new way of working and I suspect offers a glimpse of a more research focused future for the college, where we have to invest some time generating income in order to secure our work. I think just being a good teacher with a focus on the development of your students is probably no longer enough. The not unwelcome pressure is also to research and publish. For all the inconvenience and anxiety of having to respond quickly to the change of deadline I do feel that I'm on a huge new learning curve; the world is changing and it's probably wise to try and ride the first waves.
The challenge for St Mary's will be to keep a sense of its pastoral community. It's always felt as familiar as a village post office, but there are some external economic threats that need to be recognised and faced. Can we keep the easy way in which we relate to each other and students whilst developing a reputation for high class scholarship and research? Or does one priority necessarily diminish the other? The cosy days of coffee breaks and speculations might be pushed to one side in favour of impact assessments and publication deadlines. If we can do this whilst maintaining a commitment to treating each student as a unique individual then it might not be a bad thing. This is a very special place in which to learn. I'm hope adding rigour to our academic endeavours will not threaten that.